When I was a child in rural Pennsylvania, we had many ancient apple trees on our property. They yielded countless small, hard, green, sour, buggy apples every fall. We children picked and picked them so our mom could can delicious homemade applesauce and apple butter.
Next to an enormous tree close to the house, there was a small bush that bloomed in coral pink every spring and seldom put forth any fruit. I claimed this beauty as my own from an early age. The big apple tree is long gone, but my little tree is still there, blooming every spring and occasionally making a fruit or two. My mother told me it was a quince and ever since then, I’ve wanted to try one.
Much to my delight, I saw some quince for sale at my local farmers’ market last saturday, and I had to have them. I bought four large fruits, the size of a big apple. They were pale yellow-green and covered with soft white fuzz. After doing a little research, I discovered that they were borderline inedible raw, but could be made into jellies and pies. I’m happy to leave the jelly making to my dear mommy, but man I love pie.
Here’s what I came up with. You could also make this with only apples, or with a combo of apples and pears. This pie is healthy enough that you could eat it for breakfast! No oils, flour, or processed sugar.
For the crust:
1.5 c nuts and seeds (any combination will do: walnuts, almonds, cashews, sunflowers, etc)
1.5 c dates or other dried fruit (I used dates and apricots)
Pulse the nuts/seeds in the food processor until they are finely ground, but not so much that they turn into butter. Add the dates or other fruit one at a time, pulsing until it forms a sticky mixture. You’ll have to touch it to know it’s done; you should be able to roll a bit into a soft ball. You might not use all of the fruit specified, it’s just a guideline.
Press a little more than half the mixture into a pie plate, including up the sides. Set aside the rest for topping your pie.
For the filling:
3 medium/large quince, peeled, cored, and sliced (sharpen your knife, these babies are like rocks!)
2-3 large apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 c liquid sweetener (I used 1/4 c honey and 1/4 c maple syrup)
1/2 c water
juice from about half a lemon
1 Tbls cornstarch
3/4 tsp Chinese 5-Spice powder (a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, anise, and black pepper)
1 tsp cinnamon
1. Combine the quince, water, honey, and lemon juice in a large pot with a lid. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 mins. Add the apples and cook for 5 more minutes. The fruit should be tender but not mushy.
2. Transfer the mixture to a big bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine. Allow to cool. (This is a great time to make your crust!). Meanwhile, preheat the over to 400F.
3. When the fruit is cool, dump it into the prepared crust. Sprinkle the remaining nut mixture over the top and pat it together with your hands. It might not cover the whole thing, but it will taste good just the same!
4. Bake for 15mins at 400F. Turn the oven down to 375F and bake 20-30 more minutes, until the fruit is tender and before the crust starts to burn. Watch it closely if you don’t think it’s done after 20mins. The crust will be really nasty if you burn it!
5. Cool on a wire rack for 30mins. Slice and serve warm to lots of friends. It might fall apart when you take it out of the pan, but it will be tasty in a crumbly pile too.